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Nancy Pelosi gave an eight-hour long speech defending immigrants in Congress yesterday

The 77-year-old told stories about the Dreamers in the US during the record breaking speech.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

THE TOP US Democrat in Congress delivered the longest speech ever in the house yesterday, speaking for more than eight hours about protecting young undocumented migrants from deportation.

Nancy Pelosi delivered the filibuster-style speech in defence of the so-called Dreamers as she said that her party would oppose any government funding bill unless House Speaker Paul Ryan agreed to bring a bipartisan immigration bill to the floor for a vote.

The veteran California Democrat, who turns 78 next month, took the floor at 10.04am (3.04pm Irish time) and began to speak.

And she kept speaking. And speaking. And speaking.

Eight hours and seven minutes later, at 6.11 pm, she relinquished the floor — an entire work day standing and consuming nothing but water.

It’s not technically a filibuster – where a politician speaks for an inordinate amount of time to try to obstruct the passing of legislation – as no legislation was due to be passed but it was a filibuster in spirit as she made her point during the long speech.

Her aim was to put Ryan and the Republicans under pressure to secure support for the Dreamers, and the speech ended with her high-fiving Democratic colleagues who gave her a standing ovation.

Pelosi also did not break any rules with her record-busting speech to Congress. Party leaders technically take the floor for one minute, but are allowed to speak for as long as they wish.

‘Moral cowardice’

Pelosi was speaking against a compromise federal budget deal recently announced by Senate leaders that would lift spending caps and avert a looming government shutdown — but does not address immigration.

Pelosi said she would oppose the deal unless House Speaker Paul Ryan gave assurances he would bring immigration legislation to the floor for a vote.

House Dems Pelosi during the speech Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Americans “need a solution to immigration, which is long overdue,” she said.

At times she turned to scripture, and cited the biblical tale of the Good Samaritan.

She also read directly from statements by dozens of immigrants known as Dreamers – people who arrived in the United States illegally as children but were protected from deportation under president Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

In September, President Donald Trump ended DACA, but gave Congress several months to craft a solution.

If Congress does not act by the March 5 deadline, some 1,000 immigrants per day could face deportation.

“Our Dreamers hang in limbo, with a cruel cloud of fear and uncertainty above them,” Pelosi said.

The Republican moral cowardice must end.

While impressive, Pelosi’s speech is far from the longest in congressional history.

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That distinction goes to Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957 delivered a filibustering Senate speech that lasted 24 hours and 18 minutes.

More recently, Senator Ted Cruz spoke for 21 hours and 18 minutes on the Senate floor in 2013, at one point reading from the Dr Seuss children’s book Green Eggs and Ham, to oppose funding then-president Barack Obama’s health care reform law.

Deal reached

Despite Pelosi’s stand, US Senate leaders agreed a bipartisan budget deal late last night.

The breakthrough came on the eve of a midnight tonight deadline for Congress to pass a stopgap spending measure – its fifth since October – or once again turn the lights out on the federal government.

Immigration is not part of the compromise.

Instead, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell will allow an open debate on possible immigration solutions on the Senate floor, beginning as early as next week – a promise he made to end a three-day shutdown last month.

“The compromise we’ve reached will ensure that, for the first time in years, our armed forces will have more of the resources they need to keep America safe,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

“The budget deal doesn’t have everything Democrats want, it doesn’t have everything the Republicans want, but it has a great deal of what the American people want,” top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer told his colleagues.

With reporting from AFP

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Sean Murray

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